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Mississippi native Skylar Laine lights up the American Idol stage

“What are you going to sing for us?”
“Pistol Annie’s ‘Hell on Heels.’”
And so our journey with Brandon native Skylar Laine begins. As soon as she burst into song in her American Idol audition, the judges, along with Americans across the country, were smitten. It was an easy decision for the judges — Skylar was Hollywood-bound. She made it through week after week and has now found her way into the top 5, securing a spot in the American Idol tour that begins after the season ends.
Every time she steps on the stage, the room lights up and ignites with energy, but the American Idol stage is not the first that she’s encountered. Mary Harden, Skylar’s mother, said Skylar started singing “as soon as she could talk.” At age six, she traveled with her mom to New York to audition for the national tours of “Annie” and “Les Miserables.” She had parts in both shows and traveled the U.S. and Canada performing. After the national tours, she toured for two years with the international tour of “Les Miserables.” Skylar also performed in countless local theater productions in Jackson, as well as taking home the trophy from a number of talent shows.
It has become clear on American Idol that country music is her specialty, which, according to Mrs. Harden, is no surprise. Skylar’s “Papaw,” who in her Idol audition described her voice as sounding like a “little meadowlark,” and her father introduced her to country music at a young age and instilled in her a love of old country artists like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams Sr. As she’s grown, she has held on to that love of country music, adding a few new country artists to her lists of favorites like Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert and Miranda Lambert. She’s even performed a few of her favorite artists’ songs on the show, like Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” and Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town.”
Her journey to American Idol was long, but fairly smooth. She received an audition pass in Meridian, which guaranteed her a spot in the actual auditions and kept her from having to wait in the long lines we have all seen on the audition episodes of Idol. She made the first cut, which her mother said was easily the hardest, and went through three more before she auditioned in front of the celebrity panel judges we see on TV — Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.
Since that audition, her schedule has become increasingly more demanding. After she received her “golden ticket,” she spent two weeks between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. After she made it into the top 42, she moved on to Burbank to rehearse for the “Sing for Your Life” round. From there, she returned to Vegas where she survived the cut to make it into the top 24. She turned 18 in February and flew back to LA not long after to begin preparing for the live shows.
The live shows are a rush. Contestants receive their “challenge” 10 days before the live performance, but it’s not uncommon for the producers to change the challenge at the last minute, which often results in song changes that have to be made in five minutes or less. Their weeks, weekends included, are filled with rehearsals, interviews and Ford video shoots.
Her mom described Skylar’s life as being in a “bubble” since she’s been on the show. She lives in a mansion with the other contestants and lives and breathes American Idol; it’s all her schedule allows. But her mom also believes that in a way, her tours as a child with “Annie” and “Les Miserables” gave her a point of reference for what her American Idol life would be like, just on a smaller scale. Mrs. Harden said Skylar is someone who is level-headed and doesn’t give into “extreme emotions,” a trait that would not fit well in the “go, go, go” lifestyle that comes with being a contestant on the show.
Before her life was changed forever, Skylar was just an ordinary, teenage Mississippi girl. She enjoyed hunting, going to the reservoir and hanging out with friends. She excelled academically, graduating a year early from high school and getting a scholarship for Hinds Community College’s two-year nursing program. She was accepted in the RN program in October, which means that, as of July, she probably would have been an Ole Miss nursing student. But, needless to say, her plans were altered.
Mrs. Harden said now that Skylar’s career plans have changed due to her success on American Idol, ”the Lord has another path for her future.”
Skylar and her family have been very appreciative of the support that she has received from her home state. Skylar has deep roots here at Ole Miss. Her dad is a 1974 Ole Miss graduate and was a trainer on the football team. Her dad also taught her and her sister, Blair, who is a first-year law student on campus, all about Ole Miss football, the Grove and Hotty Toddy. Her uncle is the assistant bursar, and on the American Idol website, she made it official that her favorite football team is the Ole Miss Rebels.
“The main thing that Skylar and our entire family would like for everyone at Ole Miss and in Mississippi to know is how incredibly blessed we feel to call Mississippi our home,” her mom said. “My husband has said that the people in Mississippi support their own, and we have, through this experience, come to realize just how true that statement is. It is unbelievable and incredible how much love and support that we have felt on this journey. I stop several times every day to say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ We have been blessed beyond measure.”
And Mississippi couldn’t be more proud of Skylar.
As soon as she finished her rendition of “Hell on Heels,” Jennifer Lopez said, “Well, we know exactly who she is, and that’s part of what I love about her.” That’s part of what we love about her, too. She’s a dedicated performer who is appreciative of her supporters and hasn’t forgotten the people who have helped her get where she is.
Keep up with Skylar by watching American Idol on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7 on FOX.